Thursday, May 13, 2010
I refuse to run with headphones for different reasons - it's my idea time. I get more ideas during a run than atany other time. The rhythm of my pace and breathing has a similar effect as zen meditation. It clears the mind. Oddly, this very active time for the body is a quiet time for the soul. And, by concentrating on nothing, my mind is quiet enough to notice when new ideas arrive. I would lose that if I ran with headphones, whether for music or news radio. I often don't notice how loud life is, that is, how many people and items of interest or vying for my attention constantly. Life is so noisy, until I run.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
While I doubt this is objectively true, that this would simply happen given our contradictory, selfish nature, this is what Karen Armstong is getting at with her Charter of Compassion. What is known as the Golden Rule is the underlying principle of all the world's major religious traditions. According to the ancient tale, Rabbi Hillel (in a time shortly before Jesus of Nazareth) stated that the heart of the law was "Do not to others that which is hateful to you." the rest of the law - he said - was commentary.
Artists such as Kahlil Gibran and John Lennon offered this observation to the world in various forms, whether through story, poem, or song. They asserted that the underlying notion of compassion for others is what is important, not all the extraneous dogmas the religions of the world pile on to it. In the 19th Century, Lew Wallace, author of Ben-hur, wrote a very long novel, The Prince of India, in which the protaganist seeks to reconcile the major world religions by showing how they are all based on the same philosophy of compassion. So the idea has been around for at least a couple hundred years, probably longer. I believe it speaks to the very passionate core of human beings, the need to identify and sympathize with others, and this is why it is so resonant. But, again, we humans are essentially self-contradictory. While we evolved the capacity for great compassion and charity for those in our tribe, we also developed the ability to practice cruelty and aggression towards those we see as outsiders. So, these yin and yang forces will continue to pull and prod at us, ultimately foiling our attempts to raise compassion on to a throne above us all.
Apparently, her implication is that non-believers are not real Americans, that we don't mention those people. Apparently, talking about grappling with doubt in one's spiritual life is a sure sign of cynicism and dishonesty. Apparently, believers must be completely certain, with no reservations, no room for hesitancy. But what would Ms. Ingraham say to Mother Teresa, whose journal writings illuminated a life filled with profound doubts about the existence and nature of God? Would she cast Teresa to the inquisitor's rack along with the President? Of course, that is the logical extension of Ingraham's take on faith - inhuman adherence to an austere standard with no tolerance for dissent or disagreement. In short, the Inquisition. But, then, anyone who listens to Ms. Ingraham will recognize that game already.
Monday, May 3, 2010
...if you’re somebody who only reads the editorial page of The New York
Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in a while. If
you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the
Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be
changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for
effective citizenship. It is essential for our democracy.
And so, too, is the practice of engaging in different experiences
with different kinds of people. I look out at this class and I realize for four
years at Michigan you have been exposed to diverse thinkers and scholars,
professors and students. Don’t narrow that broad intellectual exposure just
because you’re leaving here. Instead, seek to expand it. If you grew up in a big
city, spend some time with somebody who grew up in a rural town. If you find
yourself only hanging around with people of your own race or ethnicity or
religion, include people in your circle who have different backgrounds and life
experiences. You’ll learn what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes, and
in the process, you will help to make this democracy work.